Jerricho Cotchery

Panthers Notes: Newton, Gano, Cotchery

Christian McCaffrey will be catching passes from Cam Newton this weekend and next, the Panthers rookie running back told the NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan (via NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman). It will mark a key step in Newton’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. The seventh-year quarterback threw his first passes of the offseason late last month and looks to be attempting to ramp up his activity in the days leading up to the Panthers’ training camp, which begins July 26. Newton underwent surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in late March. Since, the Panthers added McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds of the draft and picked up Charles Johnson and Russell Shepard in free agency.

Here’s the latest coming out of Charlotte as the NFC’s 2015 Super Bowl representative attempts to mount a resurgence after a rough follow-up season.

  • Graham Gano underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his plant foot, according to Jourdan Rodrique of the Charlotte Observer. The 30-year-old kicker missed eight field goals last season, his most since missing 10 with the 2011 Redskins, and the Panthers drafted Harrison Butker in the seventh round to compete. Out of Georgia Tech, Butker is the first kicker the Panthers have drafted in their 23-year history. Ron Rivera said he planned to bring in competition for Gano this offseason, and while he did, Rodrique expects Gano to be the Panthers’ kicker for a sixth season.
  • Although Michael Oher plans to attend camp, the Panthers have not provided much to suggest he is in the team’s plans, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer notes. Person also predicts the Panthers will sign Mike Adams after making the decision to cut Oher. A former Steelers starter, Adams last played with the Bears in 2016. Since the Bears placed Adams on IR in December, nothing’s emerged involving the 27-year-old tackle.
  • Person expects Matt Kalil to take a step back toward his Pro Bowl rookie season of 2012. While the writer doesn’t believe Kalil will get back to Hawaii, he believes the five-year, $55MM deal won’t become a sunk cost. Kalil’s recovered from 2016 hip surgery, per Person, and obviously has his brother as a key sounding board now that he’s landed in Charlotte.
  • Jerricho Cotchery is now working as an assistant wide receivers coach with the Panthers, with whom he played from 2014-15. The Panthers hired him this offseason, C. Jackson Cowart reports for the Charlotte Observer, and this season stands to be the 35-year-old’s first year of coaching. Cotchery played 12 NFL seasons — with the Jets, Steelers and Panthers — and carved out roles on seven playoff teams.
  • One of Cotchery’s charges this offseason, UDFA wideout Austin Duke faces an uphill battle to make the Panthers’ roster. However, he did draw interest from the Falcons as a post-draft free agent, but he opted to sign with the Panthers on just a $1,000 signing bonus, per Cowart. The 5-foot-9 wideout caught 59 passes for 803 yards and four touchdowns with UNC-Charlotte last season.
  • Agent Drew Rosenhaus did not rule out a holdout when discussing options for client Greg Olsen.

Free Agent Rumors: Jaguars, Bengals, Ravens

Jerricho Cotchery is not in the Panthers’ 2016 plans, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer writes. Cotchery, 34 in June, hauled in 87 passes for 1,065 yards and four touchdowns over the last two seasons with Carolina. The veteran has said that he would only continue playing if it were with the Panthers, so it’s possible that the former Jet will retire this offseason. Cotchery is effectively a free agent with a contract that will automatically void tomorrow.

The latest free agent rumors:

  • The Jaguars are not close to done after agreeing to terms with Malik Jackson, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) hears. The Jags are still interested in top pass rushers and corners.
  • Albert Breer of NFL.com (on Twitter) senses that the Bengals‘ priority guys are safety George Iloka and wide receiver Marvin Jones. Breer hears there is about $15MM budgeted for unrestricted free agents, which may not leave much room for others.
  • Saints free agent tight end Ben Watson is getting “strong, strong interest” from the Ravens, sources tell Dianna Marie Russini of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • The Dolphins are in pursuit of defensive end William Hayes, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. There is a strong market for Hayes, however, so Miami will have some competition to deal with.
  • Running back Lamar Miller wants an annual salary in the range of $6MM or more, which is more than the Dolphins would like to offer, Jackson writes.
  • The Vikings have checked in on Lions free agent linebacker Tahir Whitehead, per Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).
  • The Raiders are working to retain wide receiver Andre Holmes but the sense is that he’ll get decent interest elsewhere, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports tweets.

South Notes: Bucs, Cotchery, Hasselbeck

After watching Cam Newton and the Panthers win 15 games in his division in 2015, then seeing Newton run for his life against a fearsome Broncos pass rush in the Super Bowl, Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander would like to see his team make an effort this offseason to add some more defensive players capable of wreaking havoc in opposing backfields.

“We need to get some more guys to, you know, to get some push on the quarterback,” Alexander said during an appearance on WDAE-AM 620 (link via JoeBucsFan.com). “I think that’s what we’re going to be drafting this year, defensive ends. We had great defensive ends this year, but we need a little more help. So whoever we can get, you know, we’re going to need that pressure to get Cam and, you know, try to get to the Super Bowl this season.”

As general manager Jason Licht takes Alexander’s recommendations under consideration, let’s check in on some other updates from around the NFL’s South divisions….

  • Thursday is the day that the contracts for Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and safety Roman Harper void, so both players will officially become free agents when the new league year begins, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. For his part, Cotchery said this week that he’s not sure what his future holds, but he has only positive things to say about the two years he has spent in Carolina (link via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review).
  • By the end of his 2015 campaign with the Colts, Matt Hasselbeck was pretty banged up, but the veteran quarterback said today during an appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle that he’s “strongly leaning toward” playing another season (Twitter link via Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN Seattle). Hasselbeck is an unrestricted free agent, so if he does continue his NFL career, there’s no guarantee that will happen in Indianapolis.
  • The agent for veteran guard Jahri Evans, who was released by the Saints this week, said on SportsRadio 94 WIP today that New Orleans asked Evans to take a pay cut to remain with the team, but his client wasn’t willing to do that for the second consecutive year (Twitter link via Matt Moscona of ESPN New Orleans). Evans signed a new contract last April that reduced his salary for 2016.

Injury Updates: Cutler, Lacy, Boyd, Adams

While we don’t cover every NFL injury at Pro Football Rumors, we keep a close eye on them nonetheless, and we’ll often pass along injury news if it pertains to a key player, or if a team may have to make a roster move due to an injury. Here are some of the latest noteworthy updates on injuries sustained by players during this weekend’s games:

NFC:

  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a strained hamstring, according to head coach John Fox, who added that the Bears haven’t decided whether or not to add another QB to the roster this week (Twitter links via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune).
  • Packers running back Eddie Lacy sprained his ankle against the Seahawks last night, but the injury is minor and he could play in Week 3, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • While the initial diagnosis on Packers defensive tackle Josh Boyd suggested that his ankle injury may not be too significant, an MRI revealed torn ankle ligaments, and his season is now in jeopardy, tweets Rapoport.
  • Falcons running back Tevin Coleman fractured a rib yesterday, and will likely be sidelined for a couple weeks, depending on his pain threshold, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Despite the injury, head coach Dan Quinn said he doesn’t anticipating adding another running back to the roster, according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure (Twitter link).
  • Panthers wideout Jerricho Cotchery has a high ankle sprain, which is often a multi-week injury, but the team hopes he’ll be ready for Week 3, says Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).
  • Cardinals receiver J.J. Nelson is expected to miss two to four weeks with a shoulder injury, according to head coach Bruce Arians (Twitter link via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic).

AFC:

  • Texans offensive lineman Jeff Adams suffered a torn patellar tendon in his knee, sources tell Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). It’s a season-ending injury for Adams, who figures to land on the team’s injured reserve list this week.
  • Bills defensive back Aaron Williams sustained what appeared to be one of the more serious injuries of Week 2, but head coach Rex Ryan passed along some positive news today, indicating that Williams was back at the team’s facility and is “doing OK.” As Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News details, Ryan said it’s probably a stretch to think Williams will be back for this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, but it sounds like he avoided a significant injury.
  • Jaguars running back Denard Robinson‘s knee injury is a sprained MCL, and he’s considered week to week, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (Twitter links).

NFC Notes: Galette, Falcons, Panthers

Former Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette is visiting Washington today, and a person familiar with Galette’s thinking tells Mike Jones of the Washington Post that last year’s NFC East cellar-dwellers are the leaders to sign the free agent pass rusher. With that in mind, Jones breaks down the pros and cons of a possible Galette signing for Washington, noting that he’d certainly be an upgrade on the field, and likely wouldn’t cost a ton. However, the team will have to be certain that Galette won’t be a problem off the field and in the locker room.

Within his piece, Jones notes that the Buccaneers are also believed to be a potential suitor for Galette, though Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted earlier this week that there was no indication the Bucs were interested in signing the ex-Saint.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Falcons have tended to steer clear of players with off-field red flags over the years, but team owner Arthur Blank said he supported the club’s decision to select cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round this year, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Multiple teams flagged Collins due to his marijuana use, and the rookie admitted after the draft that he failed at least three drug tests at LSU.
  • Linebacker Luke Kuechly is the next Panthers player in line for an extension, but he tells Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer he’s not thinking about his contract. “This stuff gets done when it gets done,” Kuechly said. “We trust the guys in the building. So it’ll get done when it needs to get done.” GM Dave Gettleman has said he won’t negotiate extensions during the season, so Kuechly will have to wait until 2016 for a new deal if nothing gets finalized within the next few weeks.
  • In a separate piece for the Observer, Person identifies five Panthers players on the regular-season roster bubble, including veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
  • With Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor reportedly mulling a holdout, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap examines Chancellor’s contract to see where he fits in the safety market.

Sunday Roundup: Kelly, Beachum, Fauria

Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer says that coaches like the EaglesChip Kelly, who exercise control over both the football and business side of a team’s operations, frequently succumb to the pressures and difficulties of absolute power. Bill Belichick has managed to make it work in New England, but he is the exception to the rule.

Philadelphia’s recent saga with Evan Mathis demonstrates just how difficult Kelly’s position can be. As McLane writes, “Kelly received nothing in return for a Pro Bowl guard who had little leverage and claimed that he was prepared to report and perform without being a disruption – as he did last year.” And if the decision to release Mathis turns out to be a poor one, Kelly will have no higher authority to share the blame.

Although players will typically side with their teammates when asked about contract difficulties, the responses to Mathis’ release suggest that Kelly is still commanding respect in the locker room even as he takes full control of the team’s personnel affairs. McLane says that Mathis’ former teammates offered “vociferous support of management” after Mathis was cut, and tight end Zach Ertz had this to say: “I understand where [Mathis is] coming from. In his mind he thinks he’s underpaid, so he’s got to do what he thinks is best. But we want people here that are going to trust the process.”

Of course, there will be many more difficult personnel decisions to be made, decisions that will truly test whether Kelly can first construct a talented roster and then get that roster to win football games. It is a decidedly tall task, and one that most have been unable to meet.

Now let’s take a look at some links from around the league:

  • One of Kelly’s acquisitions this offseason was Miles Austin, who signed a one-year, $2.3MM deal with the club. Austin might not be getting a lot of attention from those outside the Eagles locker room, but Kelly himself is pleased with what he has seen from the one-time star, writes Connor Orr of NFL.com. “He’s got really, really good range,” Kelly said. “Catches the ball extremely well. Intelligent. Kind of knows the subtleties of the exact route running, kind of exactly where to maybe place his elbow to get separation in terms of pushing off the hip and things like that. And he’s imparted that on the younger guys, which I think has really helped us to have that true veteran route runner in there, and I think he’s been really good at doing that.”
  • The Colts have four locks to make the team at wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, and first-round pick Phillip Dorsett, writes Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. After that, they have three players competing for either one or two spots in Vincent Brown, Duron Carter, and Griff Whalen.
  • David Newton of ESPN.com says Jerricho Cotchery is likely to make the Panthers‘ final roster due to his leadership abilities, but Newton does not see him making a significant on-field contribution considering the talent ahead of him on the depth chart.
  • In the same piece, Newton says he does not see the Panthers making any significant additions along the offensive line unless there is a major injury in training camp, even if a player like the newly-acquired Michael Oher struggles.
  • The Steelers have not spoken with tackle Kelvin Beachum, who is entering the final year of his contract, about a new deal, tweets Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com. Beachum though, says he is not sweating his contract situation and is fully focused on the 2015 season.
  • Tashaun Gipson is the talk of the town in Tony Grossi’s latest mailbag for ESPN.com, and Grossi writes that the recent contract drama surrounding Gipson has created a bad vibe between player and team. He also addresses whether the Browns could keep Johnny Manziel inactive all year during his recovery.
  • Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com is somewhat surprised by how limited Lions tight end Joseph Fauria was in the spring, and the fact that the team signed David Ausberry and attempted to claim Tim Wright off waivers suggests that Detroit is at least considering contingency plans. That said, Fauria is expected to be ready for training camp, and the Lions continue to be impressed by his upside.

Rob DiRe contributed to this post.

Panthers Notes: Newton, Webb, Receivers

After Panthers minicamp wrapped up on Thursday, the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person compiled his 20 observations from the team’s OTA. Let’s take a look at some of those notes…

  • Cam Newton made an unexpected appearance at camp on Thursday, throwing in three seven-on-seven drills. The quarterback had a rough start, missing on seven of his first ten throws. Person notes how important it is for Newton to be ready for training camp so he can “develop timing” with all of his new receivers.
  • Two of the team’s offseason signings at wideout, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, are very similar and the writer can’t see the players playing together in two-receiver sets.
  • Receiver Kealoha Pilares is “almost a lock” to make the roster because of his receiving skills.
  • Quarterback Joe Webb looked good on some runs, but he failed to show the consistency demonstrated by likely number-two quarterback Derek Anderson. Still, Webb’s experience at receiver makes him an “intriguing candidate” for a final roster spot.
  • The team is going to have some difficult decisions to make when choosing the backups for tight end Greg Olsen. Veteran Ed Dickson had some success with the Ravens and Brandon Williams has shown improvement in training camp. The team also has blocking tight ends Mike McNeill and D.C. Jefferson.

Extra Points: Tannehill, Burnett, Panthers

Here are some assorted NFL notes on this Saturday evening…

NFC South Notes: Panthers WRs, Saints TEs

Chalk this up as one of the more amazing tidbits with respect to NFL team’s rosters, as written by The Charlotte Observer’s Joseph Person: none of the 11 wide receivers on the Panthers roster this spring caught a pass for the team last season.

The Panthers went wide receiver in the first round of the draft, selecting 6-foot-5, 240-pound Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State No. 28 overall. He’ll be looking to replace departed receiver Steve Smith, as will fellow young wideouts Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt, who have been rotating through the first-, second- and third-team offenses in organized team activities.

“One thing we’re trying to make sure is everybody’s getting a lot of reps right now,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Because when we get to training camp, we want to make sure everybody’s up to speed. We’ve made an emphasis that we’re rotating a lot of players, as much as possible. Wide receiver’s one of those positions.” 

As Person notes in his column, both King and McNutt have impressive collegiate résumés, starring at Georgia and Iowa, respectively. They’ll be competing for the starting receiver spots with Benjamin and three free-agent acquisitions: Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant.

Check out more from the NFC South in the links below…

  • De’Andre Presley was the answer from Rivera when asked if a player has distinguished himself after Wednesday’s OTA, writes The Observer’s Tom Sorensen. Presley, a quarterback in college at Appalachian State, switched to cornerback upon signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent, and is now trying to make the Panthers roster at wide receiver.
  • The Panthers went defensive tackle back-to-back in the 2013 NFL Draft with the selections of Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first and second rounds, respectively, but Short is still in a fight for a starting position, writes Jonathan Jones of The Observer.
  • Six tight ends combine for 20 years of experience on the Panthers roster, and Rivera loves the versatility they bring, ESPN.com’s David Newton reports.
  • While there is no replacing the immense talent of Jimmy Graham, Saints tight ends Ben Watson and Josh Hill are doing what is asked of them at OTAs, including everything Graham would be doing, per The Times-Picayune’s Christopher Dabe.
  • First-round pick receiver Brandin Cooks will be back for the final week of Saints OTAs, believes ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett.
  • Despite suffering two concussions in his rookie season, Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said he won’t slow down nor change his reckless ways, Triplett writes.
  • With a defensive-heavy draft, notes ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, the Falcons surely made defensive coordinator Mike Nolan a happy man. Nolan touched on each of the seven defensive players drafted, including a glowing review of Dez Southward, the former Wisconsin safety whom Atlanta selected in the third round: “He’s got really good size and is fast. He’s an intelligent guy. He doesn’t have as much football in his background as other guys because he played late in high school. But he’ll listen, as opposed to somebody that didn’t learn much and then they think that they have all the answers.”

Steelers GM On Mitchell, Harrison, WRs, Cap

With the majority of the league’s owners and decision-makers congregated in Orlando, we can expect plenty of interviews this week with NFL general managers. Already this morning, we’ve passed along comments made by Browns GM Ray Farmer, so let’s turn our attention to one of his division rivals. Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has provided a transcript of a discussion with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. Here are a few notable items:

  • The Steelers typically like pursuing free agents coming off their first contract, but the team felt that Mike Mitchell essentially fit that bill, since his second contract was only for one season. Colbert also believes there’s “a lot of room for continued growth” with the Steelers’ new safety.
  • Colbert is leaving the door open for a possible reunion with James Harrison, though he cautioned that there may be other outside linebackers that could help the team.
  • The Steelers would have liked to bring back Jerricho Cotchery, but wish him luck in Carolina, with Colbert suggesting that the Panthers were “able to do some things financially that we weren’t able to do.”
  • Discussing the signing of Lance Moore, Colbert indicated that the former Saint should give the club a little of what both Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders provided last season: “He’s a very smart, experienced receiver that knows how to work in the slot.” The Steelers GM also isn’t overly concerned about Moore’s dip in production last season, pointing out that there may not have been enough balls to go around in New Orleans after Kenny Stills entered the mix.
  • The Steelers hadn’t been anticipating the bump to a $133MM salary cap at all, and it allowed the team to make a couple moves that otherwise may not have been possible.
  • Colbert on whether he feels okay about having parted with 2014’s third-round pick in a trade for safety Shamarko Thomas: “If he was in this draft, we certainly would feel good about having used that third-round pick.”